Terry's paintings were going up in a store-front art gallery on Queen Street West. The location had been arranged through Terry's friend Paul, who was the guy with the apparent connections in the art world. The way he acted, Paul struck me to be more of a hanger-on to the art scene than an actual artist himself. He talked to Terry about a lot of artists and gallery owners, but he didn't talk much about anything he did himself. He apparently been a painter, at some point.
Looking at Paul, I felt like I was seeing a dark future version of myself: the hanger-on, the guy who hangs around musicians and knows a lot of musicians, but doesn't actually play. A guy who only talks. And that was a lame-ass guy I didn't want to turn into.
I wasn't thinking of giving up my dream of being a great writer, but to maintain any cred with myself, I was going to have start performing again. This gig as part of Terry's backing band would be the gentle reintroduction to the art of playing with others. Meanwhile, I would have to start pondering a more permanent project.
On Friday night I got home from work at six o'clock. I changed into a t-shirt and jeans, cooked some frozen hamburgers, ate, showered, and then changed into a different t-shirt and jeans.
I couldn't remember the rules of what t-shirt to wear to a concert. I knew it was uncool to wear the t-shirt of the band you're going to see, but in this case I was in the band. I guess a Terry t-shirt would be a Tremors of Intent shirt, because that was his early success. On the other hand, he was in Tremors before they got big, so there might not be any Terry Wilson-era merch out there.
A possible alternative would be a Clutch Dogs t-shirt, but even though Terry and drummer Mark were hold-overs, we were definitely not The Clutch Dogs. But why would I have t-shirts for either of those bands anyway? Who has a Clutch Dogs t-shirt? There are probably twenty being worn in the world.
I thought about wearing a t-shirt for another band, to give a more accurate glimpse of my musical tastes. But what would I choose? I had a Keith Richards t-shirt, but there was no way I would wear that while performing. "Oh look, he thinks he's like Keith. You wish, buddy." Likewise the Iggy Pop and Sid Vicious shirts. Eventually it came to a choice between a William S. Burroughs shirt and a plain black tee. I settled on the black.
Paul came in his truck to pick up Terry and me, and then we picked up Mark. After tossing his kit in the back, we drove down to the gallery on Queen West. The place was already open, and as we drove past we could see a few people milling around inside.
The space was a single long rectangular room, and we were going to set up at the back end. Paul drove around the corner and pulled into the alley, and we crept down until we reached the back door to load our gear in. Paul parked and hopped out, and pounded a fist against the back door. No one opened, and he waited a minute, standing with his hands in his pockets and hopping up and down to keep warm in the early December cold. He pounded again, waited, and then looked at us and shrugged.
Terry pointed a single finger down the alley. Paul scowled but jammed his hands in his pockets and started walking around to the front door, leaving us to wait in the truck.
"Good start," Terry said.
A few minutes later we were loading our gear in through the back door. We set the gear down along the back wall, got everything plugged in, and helped Mark set up the drums. The gallery manager, a fortyish hipster named Dean, was there to chat with Paul and Terry. It seemed everything was going well. Two paintings had already been sold. Terry greeted several of the people there by name, and he kept abandoning the gear to chat.
There was a little table set up to sell wine and beer, and the people were standing around, looking at Terry's paintings, which lined the walls. His pictures, looked good this way, neatly hung on the white walls, with the bright gallery lights allowing their colors and vibrancy to come out.
As soon as the gear was ready, Terry completely disengaged from us so he could cruise around and shmooze with the visitors. As anti-social as he made himself sound, he'd been a fixture on the local music scene for a long time, and plenty of people knew him. He'd worked hard to get the word out about this show, and so far, the turn-out looked promising. More people kept arriving.
Paul went to hang with Dean, leaving Mark and I to sit by ourselves. "Ye havin' a beer?" he asked me in his Scottish accent.
"Yeah, I guess," I said. "I don't want too much, but I'll have one."
"Yeah." We walked over to the little table where two university-age girls sat, dispensing small glasses of red and white wine, and bottles of Sleemans. We each bought a bottle of beer.
"You don't play much, eh?" Mark asked. "You ever play a gig before?"
"Sure," I said. "Just not for a couple years. And I barely played for a year. It's like I'd forgotten how to play."
"It's no worry, mate," he said. "Hell, you're only doing three songs. And nobody's going to be listening to you anyway. Tonight's all about Terry." He looked to the door. "And here are the ladies."
Mark's girlfriend, an attractive redhead with a serious spattering of freckles on her face, came in with two friends. Mark made the introductions. They seemed nice, but I was in my own place and I didn't want to chat or get to know strangers. I wanted to focus on the three songs I had to remember.
By nine o'clock the room was crowded. Terry brought Paul, Mark and I together. "Okay, let's get rolling here. Nate, you're off to the side until the time comes. Everybody's set? Okay, let's do this."
I stood by while the three of them readied their instruments. Terry had a single microphone stand set up, wired into a little P.A. with a pair of monitors for amplification. "Test," he said. "Good? Test. Okay, good. Hello, everybody."
A cheer and some applause went up from the crowd. With the bright gallery lights on, and with everyone dressed more gallery than rock bar, the event had a subdued vibe. But everyone was on Terry's side, and he looked very happy as he told them he was going to sing them a few songs.
They touched strings, checked levels, and started playing. I stood there feeling like a goof, waiting for my turn to participate.
I watched the crowd as Terry and the others played the first song. It was one of Tremors of Intent's early hits, which Terry had co-written. As I understood the story, they threw him out of the band, but still used some of his material on their first album. Kind of like Dave Mustaine's songs on Metallica's Kill'em All album, or Glen Matlock getting booted from The Sex Pistols before Bullocks being recorded.
During the second song I noticed Megan come into the gallery. She had a friend with her, a tall blonde I hadn't seen before. They were both elegantly dressed, primped for an art gallery event. A shiver went up my spine.
The two girls looked briefly at some of the paintings, then moved forward to where the little concert was taking place. Megan spotted me standing near the other players and gave me a smile and a little wave. I smiled and nodded.
The guys finished their songs, and Terry gestured for me to come up. I slipped on my guitar.
"Thanks for coming everyone," he said. "I'm really glad you all could come and have a look at what I've been up to lately. These paintings mean a lot to me, so have a look around at them."
He cleared his throat. "All lot of this stuff has been influenced by my career playing music, and I've also been working on a book about some of my um, well, I guess you would say, adventures. The book, it's called 'Comeback Road,' and it'll be coming out really soon. I'll be having a launch for that at the Cafe Rio on the seventeenth. I hope you can all come to that, too."
He had a fat bundle of papers waiting on his amp, and he turned and picked them up. "I'm going to read you a little piece of this one story while these guys keep playing, and then I'll sing one more song for you. I hope it's interesting. This is about getting smoked in the face by a beer bottle while I was playing a show with The Clutch Dogs in Barrie, Ontario."
Terry turned and nodded to Mark, who gently tapped out a count-in on his snare. We began to play the song "Rough Go," while Terry started to read: "I'm lying on my back with the dim awareness that I'm supposed to be doing something. I'm not in bed. I don't know where I am and there's a terrible pain in my head..."
I watched my fret hand as I played. There was no way I could follow what Terry was saying as he read. I just listened to Paul and Mark, and kept counting in my head, this riff four times, this riff twice, bridge to chorus, chorus riff four times, second chorus riff twice, back to verse riff four times...
When the song ended Mark counted directly into the next song and we kept playing, moving into "Old Boots." The audience didn't react to the changing music. They were listening to Terry read his story about getting knocked out and then ending up at some chick's apartment and falling over a pile of old bicycles. We, the band, were sonic wallpaper.
I wanted to have a look at Megan, but I couldn't take my eyes of my fret hand. "Newb," I kept thinking. "You're no better than a fucking newb." I knew I could look up and peak at her, maybe see if she was watching me or if she was watching Terry, but I figured it was a fifty-fifty shot that I would fuck up if I took my eyes off my fingers.
I needed to practice more. A lot more.
We played through "Old Boots" and "End of Us." The last song was the tricky one for me, because of some funky timing, but I focused like a human laser and kept my shit together.
The piece Terry was reading ended halfway through "End of Us," and he took a bow while we kept playing. He set his bundle of papers back down on his amp and pulled his guitar back on over his shoulder. Everybody clapped and some people cheered while he ripped into a screaming blues solo over top of what we were playing.
Terry soloed all the way through the end of the song, and the crowd gave another enthusiastic ovation. He bowed again and gestured to Mark, Paul and me in turn, allowing us to receive our dues from the audience. I unslung my guitar and stepped away from the performance area, and Terry pointed me out again. I got a cheer, gave a smile and a wave, and slipped into the crowd as Terry and the others ripped into their last song.
I wanted to slip back through the crowd and then cut over to the table where they were selling the beers. Finding Megan was a priority too. Her arrival was a surprise, since I hadn't told her or any of that group of people about this event, specifically.
She cut me off before I reached the bar table, slipping in front of me. She had on a clinging, shimmering purple dress, and I could smell her perfume. She smelled like vanilla soap. She smiled at me.
"Hey there, cowboy," she said.
|"I Sing When You Shut Up" is the fourth novel Nolan Whyte has written for Ultimate-Guitar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @nolanwhyte, and read his sci-fi trash at endicity.blogspot.ca.|